El Capitan! A 3,000 vertical rock formation located in beautiful Yosemite National Park. Long thought to be impossible to climb, it was first ‘conquered’ in 1958 by a group of three climbers who took 47 days to reach its summit. Many now consider El Capitan as the standard of ‘big wall’ climbing.
Because anything that goes up must eventually come down, it didn’t take long for someone to come up with the brilliant idea not to climb, but to jump from its top… with a parachute. This feat was first accomplished by Michael Pilkey and Brian Schubert in 1966, an event that gave birth to BASE jumping.
What is BASE jumping? BASE jumping, or more appropriately B.A.S.E. jumping is an activity where people jump from fixed objects with a parachute. The letters in BASE stand for: buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).
To say that BASE jumping is dangerous is an understatement. It is estimated that BASE jumping results in one fatality per 60 participants, or one fatality per 2,317 jumps. The word ‘fatality’ here means death!
A brilliant demonstration
Afraid that BASE jumping could quickly get out of control, the National Park Service put in place a permit system for BASE jumping El Capitan. The permitting program was quickly dismantled after only three months because people kept on jumping without a permit. The service has vigorously enforced a ban ever since.
This ban has angered some people who claimed that the risks associated with BASE jumping have been greatly over-exaggerated.
To demonstrate the safety of BASE jumping, Jan Davis proceeded to make a media advertised, yet illegal, BASE jump from El Capitan on Oct. 23, 1999. His parachute didn’t quite open up in time, and television cameras were there to capture his final BASE jump.
So where am I going with this column? What does BASE jumping have to do with milk?
Well, the story of Jan Davis doesn’t end up with his last BASE jump. A brilliant attorney filed a lawsuit for his estate, claiming that the National Park Service was negligent for not stopping Davis when it knew of the dangers involved.
I don’t know the outcome of the lawsuit in question, but I know darn well that some of yours and my tax dollars were used to defend the National Park Service.
Personally, I firmly believe in personal freedom and I couldn’t care less if all the Mr. Davises of the world were to jump from wherever they please. The problem, however, is that you and I are asked to pay for the damages whenever they occur. And this is exactly the case for milk pasteurization.
Milk is a marvelous food. One problem is that milk is also a good food for pathogens. Over centuries, diseases associated with the consumption of raw milk resulted in the death of many human beings.
The discovery by Mr. Pasteur that a certain amount of heat destroys most pathogens in milk led to the universal adoption of pasteurization in developed countries. Most everyone were happy that public health and safety had been so enhanced.
Of course, pasteurization also destroys some good microorganisms. Some people believe that non-pasteurized milk is healthier than pasteurized milk. As with BASE jumping, I myself wouldn’t care that some people willingly decided to consume raw milk if their choice wouldn’t affect others, myself included. But it does, both financially and from a public safety standpoint.
A number of infectious microbes can be found in raw milk: Brucella, Campylobacter jejuni, E. coli, Lysteria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Salmonella, Staph. aureus, and Yersinia enterocolitica just to name a few. They can all make you really sick; some can kill you.
I just dislike the idea of picking up the health tab of the people who decided to BASE jump using raw milk.
I find it utterly ironic that many dairymen are now investing some serious dollars in on-farm equipment to pasteurize the milk fed to their calves while other people are spending even more money in trying to avoid the pasteurization of the milk they consume. Unpasteurized milk is safe — so they claim. Maybe more so than BASE jumping.
Just ask Brian Schubert, the first man to BASE jump El Capitan in 1966. Well, maybe not, as Mr. Schubert died while BASE jumping from the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia on Oct. 21, 2006. A late opening parachute… Another lawsuit…
Personal preference and perfectly safe!